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For a performing arts teacher in Boise, work is steady, but it's a 'constant hustle'

Leta Harris Neustaedter sits near a dog and is leading an acting camp. She is part of a circle of younger students, also sitting cross-legged.
Courtesy Leta Harris Neustaedter
Leta Harris Neustaedter leads an acting camp, part of her Metamorphosis Performing Arts Studio.

This story originally aired on Marketplace on Feb. 13.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 3.1% in January. And according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, consumers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars more a year on services now than before the pandemic.

Despite the growth, that doesn't mean it's easy out there for service providers. Leta Harris Neustaedter, owner of Metamorphosis Performing Arts Studio in Boise, Idaho, is one of those service providers. A licensed clinical social worker, she offers counseling as well as music and acting instruction.

Each of her varied services ebbs and flows in its own way, she reports.

"I would say my overall income is fairly steady, but it's a constant hustle," Neustaedter said.

You can listen to her full story using the media player above or read a transcript of her story below:

My name is Leta Harris Neustaedter, and I am the owner and creator of Metamorphosis Performing Arts Studio, which is based in Boise, Idaho. So I have three main branches that my jobs fall into: the mental health counseling area, the education area and the performing area. And so they don't all ebb and flow the same.

Like in the performance area, for example, I used to have a really steady income and acting gigs. I did a lot of commercials and online training videos. And so that was a big chunk of my income for quite a while, and then that completely dried up. So, then I invest in other ways: trying to get more music gigs going or more counseling gigs or speaking engagements. I would say my overall income is fairly steady, but it's a constant hustle.

I really, really want my programming to be accessible. And with what I'm doing, there really runs a risk of, you know, what kinds of families can't afford to send their kids to private voice lessons, private acting coaching. And that's not where my heart lies. Like, I definitely didn't grow up that way. I grew up with a single mom, you know. And so I'm not super undervaluing myself, but at the same time, I've only raised my prices once since I started 11 years ago. So it does mean that I make less than I probably could. But, you know, I need to be able to feel good about it — just so that my soul doesn't like wither away.

I definitely think that it's accurate to say, "It's hard, but I love it." A couple of months ago, I had a parent message me on Facebook, to let me know that her daughter had just written about me in a college essay. And what it was was this theater program that I got involved with. And so this was just a once a year for one week, and I did it for like three years. Well, what I didn't know was that I was her first time ever having a Black teacher and that she had felt very isolated here in Idaho and that that experience of working with me, it just made her feel more comfortable. And it was inspiring to her, — so much so that, you know, 10 years later, she was writing about it in college.

So that's why I keep doing what I'm doing. You know, because I know that I am making an impact. And even though I think I could be living a more financially comfortable life, if I was doing something differently or doing it in a different way. I know that what I'm doing is making a difference, and so that's why I keep showing up.

This series is part of Marketplace’s “My Economy” series, which tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

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